Sales Are Struggling Because of YOU!

CEO, Sales Are Struggling Because of YOU!

In the course of my sales growth advisory, training and coaching engagements over the last ten years, it’s become apparent to me that much of the responsibility for sales organizations that struggle lies at the feet of the company’s most important salesperson: you – the CEO.

This is a function of 2 things:

  1. The way you and other CEOs talk about your product, service or solution
  2. Your/CEOs point of view or thought leadership about how your offering(s) is different and better

Many of the CEOs that I’ve spoken with or worked with over the years – particularly in software, technology, consulting and manufacturing companies – are ‘technical’ experts in what they do. They just love the latest feature, product or framework that their company has created and what they believe is the obvious benefits that it provides for existing and new customers.

And, here’s the challenge.

They never get beyond articulating the surface level benefits of the product or solution – and this is what the salesforce hears and is handed in their sales literature. That is the language that they, in turn, use in front of your potential customers.

“Our salespeople need to sell VALUE” or “they’re not selling the value of our (solution/service)” are some of the most overused phrases that I hear in my sales advisory work.

Of course, they don’t or can’t sell the value. It’s because the company’s most important salesperson, you the CEO, struggle to have a conversation that goes beyond “polishing the onion” – that is, merely referring to what the solution is, not what it does for the customer’s business condition. For example:

Level 1 statements aka “onion polishing”

“Our new (service/solution) will increase/improve the number of customers who buy.”

“Our new (service/solution) will reduce the number of defects per hour/day.” (Better)

These ‘input’ statements while seeming to clearly articulate the value, do not address the deeper and broader value that can be delivered. What’s missing is the additional “and that means…?” question to the statement.

(Note: Most customers haven’t been trained to think beyond inputs either, so they can’t ask questions about the value of the potential outputs either. And that is where the value gets created.)

On hearing statements like the above, a sophisticated buyer will ask themselves questions such as: “By how much?” “What is the $ value of that?” “If this is true, what will that allow me to do that I can’t today?”

Most don’t. And that is why it is down to you and your salespeople to be able to guide them through the thinking that allows them to discover the potential ‘outputs’ and value of your solution to them. Below are what more output focused statements might look like.

Level 2

“Other customers who have deployed (service/solution) say that they have increased/improved the number of customers who buy by between 4% and 23%.”

“Other customers who implemented (service/solution) reduced the number of defects per hour/day by 11% to 17%.”

These statements are much more specific AND they use social proof to be more persuasive and effective. However, they are still the statements of a salesperson. What is more persuasive: a salesperson’s numbers or the customer’s own…?

Level 3 – value is created when you guide the customer to articulate their beliefs about the value to them

“Other customers who have deployed (service/solution) say that they have increased/improved the number of customers who buy between 4% and 23%.

  • Tell me, what % of your customers buy today?
  • What % do you think it could be with a solution/service like this?
  • What is the $ value of that difference?
  • What would that allow you to do that you can’t do today?

“Other customers who implemented (service/solution) reduced the number of defects per hour/day by 11% to 17%.”

  • May I ask, what is your defect % today?
  • What % do you think it could be with a solution/service like this? Or what % would you like to get that down to?
  • What is the $ value of that difference?
  • What would that allow you to do that you can’t do today?

This is how you, the CEO, create value for your salespeople AND customers. Your ability to guide customers to articulate their own ‘case for change’ by having a business vs. solution/service/product conversation is how value gets created. Your salespeople will know what to model and what good looks and sounds like, and your customers will have much more clarity on the economic value of choosing your company over your competition.

Next week, I’ll address the second challenge that I hear and see – your/CEO’s point of view or thought leadership about how your offering(s) is different and better.

If you struggle with guiding customers to articulate their own ‘case for change’, that is a clear indication you need help. Give me a call.

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Matt Conway

CEO & Principle at Matthew Conway
If you're a CEO or Sales Leader reading this and you want to fill your pipeline with quality opportunities, win more deals and reduce sales cycles by as much as 6x, then perhaps it's time for a chat?

If you want to learn more, feel free to email me at matt@matthewconway.com or call me on +1 647-402-2096.
Matt Conway
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